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Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

A wonderful observation was made by Venkat Rao. People desire for things around them to be “legible.” He was quoting someone else, but he’s brought a lot of people’s attention to the concept. In this context, Legibility refers to how easy it is to understand the purpose and the meaning of a thing, not just a text, but anything.

On the very legible end of things is something like an office chair, or a cup of coffee.  These are designed by humans, completely contrived for the types of purposes that anyone can plainly gather from their adaptation to these intentions.  On the far side of illegibility is the pattern of plants in a forest.  Not to say that it’s random, but without an extremely specialized understanding, the patterning, the whys, the meaning of it is indecipherable.  The only other way to access a complicated image like a forest or a city is to simply experience the gestalt of it, the sense of it as you are there, in the moment.

Rao gives us examples of problems that arise when we humans try and impose legibility. His easiest example is the growth of a city.  Old cities have grown in such a complex pattern over decades, centuries, even millenia, and with such a collection of complex human interactions, that their patterning is as nuanced as the trees and ferns of the forest floor.  When planners come along and try to work out a method to set up a city artificially, it so often fails miserably because there is a forced legibility (indeed, it’s hard to imagine making policies about things without first rendering them legible, but for policymakers to grok the complexities necessary to understand things like city growth is more than most mere politicians can muster).

The important points here are that legibility is highest in man-made things and that people desire legibility.  In fact, Rao cites an interesting incident at a neurology clinic where a black and white checkerboard pattern is used to establish a “baseline” of someone’s brain activity, a “calm state.”  When the patient asked the doctor “shouldn’t you use something more neutral, white noise, perhaps?”  The doctor responds, “Oh no, people’s brains go wild when we show a random pattern, because they work hard to grasp at some underlying structure.”

Perhaps it is the fruit of Maharishi’s meditation on who am I? perhaps it is my vows, or just observation.  But recently I have found myself truly switching identity experiences rather easily.  After actual decades of wanting so much to be a woman, and an entire decade of being mostly submissive, I find myself being a true switch.  I can stop what we’re doing at home to force slap her ass, make sure she’s knowing she’s in submission, and leave her begging for more as we’re walking into town. Yes, I can still kiss a whip, scrub someone’s floor, and pine to get held down and fucked.  Honestly, I could beg God for either role just as sincerely, or forget the whole thing entirely.  All of it is surrender!

If you don’t build it deliberately, but let it form, like actions of nature, it isn’t going to have the same kind of legibility of an invention.  I smile this smile that old ladies and children seem to find irresistable.  I alternatively flush a bit from some men’s heat, and then wet some girl’s panties by our immediate mutual knowledge that I would chain her up alongside the others and perhaps horsewhip the living hell out of her in half a second.  And I gain trusting giggles and secret intimacies when I unwrap my Arab kuffiya and smile a blushing conspiratorial sister smile.  No one seems to try to cheat me anymore, in fact it seems they’re mostly quite generous with me.  My employees are artistic and seem satisfied.  I drive hard bargains with a shy voice.  My students mostly do what I say, alternatively seduced, in love, and afraid. My personality is a forest rather than a coffee cup, mysterious to even myself.

Then this all generalizes into other things.  I find myself more generous with money, and managing it all quite differently because I don’t even know what it is anymore.  It seems to have no value at all.  I don’t mean that in a naive sense, but in the sense that we’re all dying so quickly, what the fuck?  Perhaps I will find the capacity for even more generosity, or that great fabled freedom to just cast a fortune away in a moment, without a thought, and the power to create another kind or another kind or even a different kind than that….  How can I lack patience in this case?  How can I worry any sense of morality?  I tested this by lying outright a few times, and find the only thing I have that could be called a “conscience” is confusion brought on by blood sugar levels.

My friends seem to stumble with their reactions.  And I think it’s because I’ve become illegible.  So I do try and maintain some consistency around them lately, but it feels so stilted, and I notice that any real observer should be able to see through the plastic of contrivance. People want you to have an identity though, something to pin down and relate to with a known set of codes.  My girlfriend, fortunately, is blessed with enough innocence to just tell me when she doesn’t get what’s going on, and to roll with it.  She’s uncaring about social norms enough to either not notice or not care when I mix gender, dominance, social class signals, fashions, and actions with the kind of attitude that I would pack a backpack for a walk in the woods.  Toilet paper is good for so many things, I’ll bring a whole roll of that with me for even a day or two in the woods.

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I put Kuan Yin on my computer desktop. A beautiful purple picture of the goddess….  I surrounded it with a purple gradient and there she sits.  The first day I tried to strike the same hand positions, since a friend had suggested that iconography was meant to be instructive in this way.  I would have sworn she smiled at me when I tried. I don’t mean that to be silly at all….  in that second, just as someone rang me on my phone, I thought she was smiling at me.

Since this, I have felt almost as if she watches over me all the time. Money seems to come from nowhere, a lot of new opportunities show up for me. Maybe my questions are being answered. I have been writing on the backs of the paper prayer sheets we use here in Taiwan. I don’t know if anyone ever does that, but I just write my question again and again, as beautifully or as rawly, or as simply or as ramblingly as I feel I must, “Who am I?” Now, this isn’t to make a mantra of the question, but it is to spur myself to trust the universe to answer it! To wake myself up to my own desire to know it, which I am afraid is a naive desire. When I finish two dozen of them, I will burn them at the chimney of the Temple of the Boddhisattva.

Some of my questions are already getting answered.  Long ago someone related the story of his long exchange with a zen master.  The master had told him that Karma was also an illusion, and it was kind of like how you wake up in the morning, and you go to the job you had the day before, and do some of the same things….  And I had been wondering, how do I come to see this for myself? In fact, I’ve asked the same zen master the same question, but he has yet to get back to me.

Yet last night I read someone paraphrasing something Sadhguru said, “Your likes and dislikes are your karma.” That’s it! Equanimity towards likes and dislikes, or at least seeing the impermanence of them is the key to seeing the illusion in them….  they are obviously dross.  “If I cut your hand off, would you still be you?” “If you had never had your favorite pet as a child, would you still be you?” “If you had never known your favorite pass-time, would you still be you?”

As I chat on the Skype phone, or type back and forth with friends, I see Kuan Yin’s beautifully placid smile. I find myself reflecting it back, bringing some equanimity to situations where I might otherwise get sucked into a maelstrom, even lending me more wisdom than I really possess. I swear she smiles a more brightly at times, filling my heart with clarity and equanimity.

I have returned to questioning “who am I?” Until recently I’d lost faith that the question could be answered, and I found myself stuck in ruts for months. Instead of plunging into the unknown for days to finally emerge with new knowledge, I just had the slightly lock-jawed and bitter taste of stagnation….

But in writing on those golden prayer papers, I have been emboldening myself to ask the question again, looking inside to grasp the answer. And I find myself standing at the doors of silence again. That question, of all of them I am aware of, brings me to the sense of impermanence and lack of inherence more clearly than anything else.

The feeling I get is of settling into a place that is both familiar and alien, where I seem to be nothing at all, and no moment holds any sway whatsoever except this exact one, where I seem to calmly observe everything fading like the trees in Autumn, or the setting sun. . . I even know what it is to sink into this entirely, yet I do not.  However, instead of mourning my fearful toe-dipping, I am simply realizing that it doesn’t matter if I hang about here at the threshold awhile longer….  the opening of the door is inevitable, and I care about nothing as much as the answer to Maharishi’s question: “Who am I?”

When I feel empowered, clear-headed, and open to possibility, I look out to make a move towards something, or even ask the boon of KuanYin, who seems to follow me most of the time.  When I’m innocent or naive enough to feel that ANYTHING is possible, it’s obvious that I don’t actually know what I really want, the only question that seems important is to find out who I am.  Otherwise anything else I seek is just a waste of my time…  But am I courageous enough to keep asking?

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Everything’s working out for me.

I had initially told my employer I could stay for one more year. I’d thought it through carefully and come to the conclusion that the money was good and I could keep pumping my business ventures. But when it came time to sign the contract, I got sick about it.

Actually, the truth is, from the moment I told her I’d do it, I had this feeling of loss of good breath, like I was literally, subtly suffocating. Then when the day came to sign, I felt like shit. My heart was pounding, I kept having to go to the bathroom. I just couldn’t do it. Contextualize this within a year and a half that’s been mostly in good states and you’ll see how much this was fucking up my groove.

So I decided to try to make the move South, to the middle of Taiwan, a much nicer place. But I needed to know if the money would work out. I’d already asked MaZu if my business would still be prosperous if I made the move to TaiChung and she’d said yes, but I wanted to be sane about it all.

So, I put the numbers down on paper and realized that I had plenty of money. In fact, if I am a bit careful about my spending during the month of August, I’ll be able to complete my contractual payment obligation to my Engineer, visit Thailand for more or less than a month, and land back in Taiwan with about four times as much cash as I started with this last time I landed here.

So, I told my employer today that I just wasn’t willing to sign on for another year. I apologized if I’d misled her and I explained that I was getting burned out and I was trying to make the best decision for my own sense of well-being. She actually said if I ever change my mind, she will be happy to sign another contract with me. Wow…..  a better outcome than I could have reasonably hoped for.

What do I notice with all of this? I had grown stagnant in ways I hadn’t imagined. And the need to organize things and pare stuff down is already breathing energy back into my rutted oxcart.

I plan to do a 10 day long Vipassana meditation retreat in Thailand, and I’m nervous about whether I’ll have the courage and the metal it takes to actually get the practice to work. Some part of me flirts with certainty that I’ll end up in the bottom 10%, some lack of courage or wherewithal preventing me from getting much out of it, forever thinking of it as “meh” while my inner knowing of my own failure in the matter gnaws at me forever — only to go back and try again years later, and get only some scant success with it then.

But I’m hoping that’s not the case. As much as all this fear of failure and inadequacy is bugging the shit out of me, I’m excited to move towards some progress, at least waking me up to an extent. Insight, clarity, growth and inspiration are worth a lot more than money in most cases.

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So I was considering what to do with my job situation. I asked my supervisor for an opinion in order to strike up a conversation to keep the lines of communication open in case I wanted to sign another contract with them. Also, I needed to know something about the number of vacation days on the contract which, as it is written, is quite ambiguous. Depending on the interpretation of that, I was ready to sign up again immediately.

She was initially almost in tears asking me if I was going to marry my girlfriend. This threw me a little off, because I thought my supervisor had gotten over her attraction to me and just considered me a friend. I made a pretty dismissive comment about the idea in order to calm her down and then proceeded to talk to her about the amount of vacation time I would have.

Now, I’ve been in friendly enough terms with my supervisor that she already knows I want to take a ten day Vipassana meditation time. Also, she knows I was speaking with a Zen teacher a well. What was interesting was the amount of condemnation she ended up heaping onto my wanting to do these things. She is, herself, a Buddhist and had scheduled a meeting with a famous teacher on the South of the island during Chinese new year. Instead of attending the meeting, she cancelled it and rode horses all week long.

Now, what’s interesting is the elaborate reasoning she comes up with about my spending time meditating. The thing is, she does it in a way that appears quite well-meaning, and remarkably sincere. Her favorite is, “you probably already have the answers” to which I responded, “yes, perhaps, but I am looking for a teacher or some time to spend to help me see them for what they are” and she goes on that I’m impatient (to which I respond, I’m not hurting to wait, but I’m also not trying to waste any time) or that I’m being selfish (to which I respond, I am kind to others, but it seems that if I’m completely lost, I may not even know what kindness IS) or that I think too much (but anyone whose spent time meditating has discovered that yes, you think WAY THE FUCK TOO MUCH, and meditation is the only hope you have to get that chatter to cease)….

How sincere and reasonable she is in all this, enough that I found it unsettling. Mind you, it didn’t seem like “attacks” or anything at the time. I am sure that in her mind, it’s all kindness and “realistic” ways of thinking of things (as if pragmatism demands selling one’s soul to join some world of conformity). I was thrown off by all this until I remembered the beginning of the conversation. Then I remembered that she is in love with me and wants me to stay near her, and every things she says is to serve that purpose. Does SHE even realize this?  My guess is no.

Pretty much everything is a tactic, a ruse, or a strategy. Even being honest just gives one a personal sense of justification, and a socially granted one as well. Ghandi, along with plenty of Jewish scholars and Christian theologians, pointed out that Jesus’s ideas about turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, and giving someone who sues you for a cloak, your shirt along with it might have been very strategically useful for the oppressed Jews of his time. I’m not saying that it’s ‘wrong’ in any sense, to use whatever method one feels is most congruent and effective in order to finish a task, I’m just saying that it is what it is.

I teach kids. I see this every day. Doing well on a test gets appreciation and acceptance from teachers and parents, and a boost to mood and feelings of personal security and well-being. 99% of my kids don’t give a shit about learning ENGLISH per se. When someone sees a reason to learn it, like my student who loves computers and noticed that the BIOS is always in English, my job is easy and they learn quickly. Until they get inspired, I just manipulate social cookies to coerce and convince them to do what I want them to. It’s a sickening game sometimes.

“Following the rules” may be anything from a way to manipulate others into giving one what one wants to a way to feel justified in self-pity when things don’t go one’s way. “Nice” is a nice way to create a reality that believes oneself to be a “good person” or some such crap. At the worst, ones self righteousness is a game to build ones own ego without reproach because you can threaten anyone that gives you a well-deserved ass kicking else with state violence. The thing is, I’ve played all these games, and I watch kids do it, and I watch people do it, and I’m sick and fucking tired of it, in myself more than anybody else!

So, it’s hard as fuck to know what I’m doing right now. I’ve looked inside myself and seen the same thing. I, yes I, use an immense amount of sincerity as a means to an ends… I use a ‘pragmatic approach’ sometimes, or a ‘ruthless’ one, or ‘the one that fits the situation’ but it all seems to be ego-gratifying as well as basically self-serving WHATEVER I do. What I would give right now to know my own truest intention!

From a standpoint of innocence and pure intention, means is irrelevant. You are always choosing means anyways, to serve whatever intention you have. And until I am coming from a standpoint of innocence and pure intention, even honesty is a lie.

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Years ago I took the LSAT.  I kept pre-testing in the 169-170 range with occasional tests as high as 174. And I was time constraining myself, using real LSATs, etc. I even did things like take the worst of four to six test sections in order to try and lower my score. So I felt quite excited about taking the test.

Well, test day came and I bombed it at 164. A mere 90th percentile borders on a waste of test paper when it’s one that 150,000 people take every year. At least that’s how I felt about it. I wrote good essays and applied late to a few schools.  I had some acceptances and some decent scholarship offers. At the end of it all I opted not to go when it was time to sign for loans. I didn’t really want to be chained to law school and debt. Maybe the gods were looking out for me when I got that crappy score, since I think I’m better off not having gone. It would have been harder to say “no” to Columbia U.

Just this morning I woke up with one of those flights of fancy where I was considering taking the test again. I think I could do a lot better. My kung fu is better, and I have a clearer mind.  Maybe I could get a near perfect score and go to Harvard or something. The funny thing is I no longer even have aspirations to become a lawyer. I like my life as a teacher, designer, and indy manufacturer, which are probably more congruent with my character anyways.

But I still got such a cool feeling from thinking about it, considering what it would be like to do it. It’s so easy to think through possibilities and get all kinds of tingly pleasurable feelings. And for once I realized that must be my real intention, the peaceful blissful feeling the fantasy gives me. Even when I’m working towards doing it, in the middle of the difficult parts, I’m thinking it may be that feeling of bliss based on the fantasy of where it will take me that keeps me going. I’m bothered by the notion that might be my real main intention.

So this morning I said “fuck it” for a few minutes and just enjoyed that feeling, since it seems to be all I want most of the time anyways. This got me reflecting on my business. I wonder if I could set aside those feelings for awhile and have a clearer head about the steps I can take to make my manufacturing venture more successful. Thus far, lovely designs, pre-orders, generating buzz…  all that is just serving the purpose of giving me some sort of high. I suspect getting paid will make me feel the same. It’s not as if I don’t have plenty of money now, so what does more of it do for me?

But if that’s REALLY my only intention, effectively an ego gratification, then why not just enjoy the fantasy, draw it all out….  of one falls through, pick up another one. I’m afraid I might do just that. In fact, I’m wondering at this point just how much I *am* doing just that, with Wujifa, meditation, business, even my relationship with my lover. Surely this begs me to look further, to see if I have intentions beyond just feeling bright, shiny, and blissed out.

And why do these fantasies make me feel those lovely feelings? Maybe because the thoughts of my goals make me feel special, stroke my ego, gratify my sense of self. I determined awhile ago that my fear seems to be lack of something to identify with, to think of myself as being. But SURELY there has to be worthy intention beyond that empty naval-gazing roller coaster of a life. At the very least, I must have some intention beyond sensations. What is it?

Perhaps if I knew then I would take my Wujifa practice more seriously, make better decisions in my business, and contribute more to my students. Maybe I would find more depth in my relationship with my girlfriend, and contribute better insight to her.

Perhaps I could get past this plateau in meditation.

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“The method is medicine”

“Method is not the truth, once you get the feeling, get rid of the method.  But even feeling can become a method at some point.”

“It’s okay to take medicine when you’re sick, but if you keep taking the medicine after you’re better, it becomes dysfunctional.”

So I started noticing major gaps in my perception.  For instance, why was I willing to gloss over major issues in the film “Eat, Pray, Love” when almost every human in the free world seems to realize that movie was hollow, vapid, and patronizing.  Even as I watched it and felt the vapidness of the spirituality portrayed, some of the underlying spite in the main character, and got pissed at the way she treated her teacher, I sort of set that at the edge of my consciousness and thought, “well, she’s being braver than most people I’ve met.”

Likewise, I’ll admit, for a long time, in a tough situation I will sometimes not trust my feeling when I listen to someone.  Instead of intuition, I look to one of two things, “What is this person REFUSING or TERRIFIED to consider?” and “What is irrationally pissing this person off?”  Normally one of those two things will reveal where someone is stuck.  They’re quite effective.  But of course, resorting to those two methods every time has a deadness to it.  This is rooted in my fundamental lack of trust in myself.

Frankly, I’m refusing to and terrified of trusting myself, or of trying to step out and move and live and flow in the reality of the moment, instead leaning back on method to avoid taking the tougher steps.  This has been showing up to me for months in my Qi Kung.  When I get to a certain particular spot, it’s like I’ve absolutely done as much as I can with the Qi Kung I’m comfortable with, and I start needing to do some new excercises, specifically some that are challenging or even scary for me….  I can even go into that to a certain extent…  but there’s something, a blind spot, a space where I turn away and distract myself as rapidly as possible.

So I got wrapped up in studying Chinese.  On top of that, I started obsessing over it.  And then being a coward about it on top of that.  Moreover, I was taking every mistake I made too personally….  even making it into a wedge between my girlfriend and I.

And lately, I’m blocking something so drastically that I’ve nearly had four or five motorcycle accidents this week.  That’s from “nearly having” ZERO for the whole year I’ve been here.  I’m a good driver folks, and I can speed around on one of these things with major margins of error to play with….  now, suddenly, I’m almost running into people because I’m not looking?  What gives?

More spelling errors and such… The kinds of things no one else would notice (except some of my kids), but they reveal to me that I’m just thinking differently.  Why?  How?  Well, three things come to mind that I might be avoiding::

Something to do with Cheryl.  Obviously it’s intimidating to build a close relationship with somebody.  I do catch myself blocking my own energy and not making as free and easy of a connection sometimes in the days leading up to when I’ll see her.  I don’t know if it’s a pattern or something I can deal with with her, or what.  I’ll see her this weekend and just be honest about it when I’m talking to her.  At least we’re both honest about our intentions and how we feel….  that should be helpful.

Something to do with my business.  Obiously I’d like this to be successful.  But of course there’s a lot of hard work.  It’s easy to want to obscure innaction and laziness with “patience.”  I think I actually know how to manage this effectively and I seldom don’t know what the next step or two is that I should take….  yet it’s easy to not want to do anything.

My Qi Kung, and meditation….  okay, I’m sure there IS something here.  First of all, I haven’t been meditating very much for the last couple of months.  Maybe when I ended my previous addiction, it left me with a big space…  like, wow…  what do I do?  I know that sounds kind of stereotypical, but there is something to it.  Also, I get scared sometimes when my meditation connects me with a sense of eternity or timelessness…..  And my Qi Kung.  It’s easy to not want to go past a certain point, like I said above.  But not just because the excercise is scary, but because the results, like the meditation, can also be difficult to deal with….  Some part of me wants to settle into what I’ve learned and just stay there forever.

I’m reminded of how it seems like things always go the smoothest with Cheryl when I am constantly aware of the truth that everything changes.  So I never expect to sit our relationship down on one spot and keep it there forever.  It’s nice when things have a predictability for awhile, but I always proceed with the awareness that things evolve and change.  I never know exactly where they’re going, or when they’ll shift, but all I can seemingly do is observe all this peacefull.  That’s been a very fruitful attitude to have.

Maybe I should start applying this to my business, meditation and Qi Kung…. After all, Wujifa is nothing but Daoism in Practice.  “In the Dao, Everything Changes.”  What did you expect?

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And with every death, a rebirth.

I noticed the moment of change.  I saw it happen.  I’ve gotten good at seeing it and I love Aranofsky’s films above all.  Mickey Rourke’s character has asked the stripper to have a regular relationship with him.  She said she couldn’t do it.  He screws things up completely with his daughter, but the stripper comes back to him.  It happens in one perfect instant.  You can feel it, she opens up.  Two human beings in a dance.  Everything he’d asked her for, laid there in front of him, her trusting her innocence enough to make that leap.

But he misses it, he’s already closed down, maybe because of his daughter or maybe because he’s lost faith in himself.  I can only recommend “the Wrestler” as one of the best films I think I’ve ever seen.

I love watching movies to see these kinds of changes.  It’s beautiful to see even in a stupid movie like H.E.A.T. where DeNiro has a clear moment, his dying motion, in the hotel when his girl wants him to just leave with her and he jumps back into this murky, deadly world he cannot seem to let go of, long before Pacino guns him down.  Contrasted to Kilmer, who keeps his course and walks away.

I see them in my own life, as I saw the moment where everything changed with my girlfriend.  I felt it as certainly as you might notice the sun break the mountaintops.  It’s a worthwhile practice, noticing what changes.

The other thing I recently caught was my tendency to judge my actions in a situation by how peaceful, blissful, or easy the encounter felt.  However, I’m also seeing that the right thing doesn’t always flow that way, sometimes deceptions are called for, or ‘worse.’  And my judgements do little but get in the way.  The only barometer I can find for this is my own innocence.

The last few weeks, I needed to make sure I wasn’t loosing it to chemical reactions in my head when I entered the dance with my girl.  “Love” is pretty common and about as “special” as taking a shot of whiskey (both stimulate the opium receptors in the head).  I choose to stay aware, continue growing and learning.  My intention is to build connection, not just read a lot of magical mystical bullshit into an endorphine high.

The only way I find is to center myself upon the reality of death, coupled with a type of self-enquiry, and the transience of everything becomes clear.  For keeping a steady mind, death is the only worthwhile advisor.

Still today, after such a deeply intentional strike a couple of weeks ago, severing the head of a decades-long addiction, I find the difficult part is when no decisive strikes are needed…  indeed, the times when NOTHING is needed.  The hardest thing, perhaps, is silence.  I still want to think of myself as “the one who did this or that,” worse yet “the one who does this or that.”  ….and I feel that’s the road back to hell.

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